Brian Ortega has trumpeted a message of positivity during his rise up the ranks, but good guys aren’t always getting the biggest paychecks.
Or the endorsement deals. Or the massive fan followings. Or special treatment from combat-sports promoters.
So is Ortega, who’s now No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings and slated to fight featherweight champion Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) in UFC 226’s pay-per-view co-headliner on July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, tempted to take a page out of Conor McGregor’s playbook? Could he come a big talker like “The Notorious” (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) – and maybe drift to the dark side and even start attacking mass-transportation vehicles?
“There’s only one Conor,” Ortega recently told MMAjunkie. “Everybody who’s tried to be like Conor, you can tell they’re just fronting.
“You can easily see, you can tell by the way the go in there – you’re just like, ‘Come on. Shut up.'”
Ortega, a 27-year-old Californian who’s downplayed the personal significance of the UFC belt, has been one of the organization’s more thoughtful fighters since joining the roster 2014. However, he’s one win away from holding UFC featherweight gold – and then possibly going for a lightweight strap, as well.
Still, even with two belts (not to mention four fight-night bonuses in his past three bouts), he may not be the UFC’s most marketable star. In a world where some snappy sound bites and good ol’ trash-talking can raise a fighter’s profile like never before, has Ortega considered adapting his chill-dude outlook for a more boastful one?
“For me, I’m just me,” he said. “That’s what I realized the best thing to be is. When I talk to people, they’re like, especially getting into the sport, (they’re like), ‘Oh, you’ve got to be a character. You’ve got to be this.’ And my coach told – and I don’t know if I can cuss or not – but he goes, ‘F-ck that.’ He’s like, ‘Just be you, bro. You don’t have to lie on the thing. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to remember some thing you made up before.’ He goes, ‘Just be you, and you can’t go wrong with being you.’
“So that’s what we did, and I’m happy I stuck to it, man. Because I’m just me. If I ever get pissed off, I’m legitimately pissed off. So far it hasn’t happened.”
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